Moderator note: This recap of “Libraries and the Public Purposes of Higher Education” was written by Helene Lafrance and Jennifer Nutefall of Santa Clara University
The first ever Colloquium on Libraries and Service Learning was offered in 2014 at Santa Clara University and was a resounding success, an all-day affair that brought together 75 participants from all over the country to discuss and share their involvement with service learning. This year, the organizers chose a different format as the Colloquium was held as a pre-conference as part of the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Conference in Boston on March 19. The pre-conference title was Libraries and the Public Purposes of Higher Education. It included four consecutive sessions highlighting many issues related to academic libraries and service learning, ranging from partnerships between librarians and faculty, to best practices, and program assessment. While there were fewer attendees (full conference registration was potentially cost prohibitive) the intimate format provided for more active participation and in-depth discussions and exchanges.
The first session, Learning to Share: Partnerships in Service Learning, Public Scholarship, and Library Exhibitions, was co-presented by librarian Margaret Pezalla-Granlun, and Biology faculty member Debby Walser-Kuntz (Carleton College). They described how students in a Public Health course curated a library exhibition to share basic public health concepts with the community. They also led a very interesting exercise in which the attendees could experience the decision-making process involved in selecting and organizing images for an exhibit.
In the second session, Olivia H. Ivey explained how librarians at American University reached out to service learning groups on campus and used curriculum mapping to see where they could integrate information literacy in the learning outcomes of service learning courses.
Joan Ruelle (Elon University) presented the results of a research project which surveyed service learning directors and academic library directors at institutions with exemplary service learning programs as listed in U.S. News & World Report. Her goal was to determine the extent of the partnerships between the library and the service learning units on these campuses. She identified several interesting collaborative projects, such as the addition of service learning capstone projects to the institutional repository, community access to library resources, literacy projects, and the incorporation of a service learning component into a library internship for students. She also explored the barriers to the development of such partnerships including time, money, and a lack of partnership history. It was interesting to see the overlap in responses between service learning directors and library directors and next steps for this research was discussed.
The last session dealt with the development and assessment of service learning programs in academic libraries. Katherine Kott (Katherine Kott Consulting) led the participants in an exercise to create a draft rubric for self-assessment based on seven dimensions appropriate for academic libraries: mission and culture, collection support for service learning, spaces for service learning, programmatic approach to information literacy for service learning, relationships with external stakeholders, organizational support, and leadership support. This rubric has the potential to help libraries define program elements and develop an assessment framework.
Everybody in attendance enjoyed the chance to brainstorm with colleagues and learn what other institutions were doing. As one of the participants said: “Hearing librarians discuss ideas about service learning and information literacy energizes me to go back to my institution and pursue progress in this area.”
The future of the Colloquium on Libraries and Service Learning is under discussion and we’ll have more information on its future in the next few months.